The Missouri Senate took the next step Tuesday toward beginning final negotiations with the House on next year’s state budget. But Senate members struggled with whether to bind themselves to various positions they support.
Missouri senators have endorsed changes in the procedure for nominating candidates for the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
A seven-member commission screens applicants for vacancies on the state's high court and the three districts of the Court of Appeals. The panel recommends three finalists, from which the governor makes the appointment.
The commission is currently made up of a judge, three lawyers and three people selected by the governor.
The Missouri Senate passed a $24 billion state budget early this morning, following several hours of debate and closed-door negotiations.
The Senate spending plan for FY2013 directly challenges the Missouri House's position on blind pensions. By a narrow margin, Senators restored $28 million in state funding cut by the House last month, while leaving in $18 million in federal Medicaid dollars. Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) says they now have more room to maneuver when negotiations with the House begin on the final version of the budget.
iPad photo of Mo. Senate chamber while the body was officially at-ease Monday night, 4-23-2012. A group of fiscally conservative Republicans began blocking the state's supplemental budget bill late Monday afternoon.
The Republican from Cape Girardeau had promised weeks ago that he would block the budget over its use of one-time funds to fill holes in next year’s spending plan. Gradually throughout the evening, other fiscally conservative Senators joined in, including Jim Lembke (R, Lemay), Rob Schaaf (R, St. Joseph), and Luann Ridgeway (R, Smithville).
Early on, Crowell spent part of the filibuster lampooning the Missouri House for cutting pensions for the blind.
Budget writers in the Missouri Senate have passed that chamber’s version of the state budget for next year.
The Senate plan is about $86 million smaller than the version passed by the House last month. Cuts include $13 million from child care provider grants, $7 million from other childcare services, and $1 million from meals at state prisons. Budget Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) acknowledges that many of the cuts target Medicaid.
In a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate backed a measure that would allow charter schools to be set up in districts that have been declared unaccredited. It would also allow charter schools in some districts that would have been provisionally accredited for three straight years, starting with next school year.
Currently, a teacher has to work in the same school district for five years to earn tenure. The bill sponsored by State Senator Jane Cunningham (R, Chesterfield) would expand that requirement to 10 years.
“As long as the teacher does not own their job, if you will, then they’re going to be really working to prove (themselves) and do a good job," Cunningham said. "It gives us five more years of encouraging and giving motivation to teachers to really produce.”
Budget hearings have begun in the Missouri Senate, and already there are notable differences with the House in where that chamber wants to make cuts.
While the House budget would give state workers earning less than $70,000 per year a two percent raise, the Senate version would limit those raises to workers making less than $45,000 per year. Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.